The ease of some furniture DIYs might surprise you. There's one in particular that requires minimal tools and investment, and the elbow-grease portion of the work can be completed in a few hours. (Then it's just a matter of practicing your patience while things dry—which is probably the hardest part!)
No, we're not talking about reupholstering your favorite chair, though that's doable, too. Instead we mean refinishing a piece of wood furniture—like that worn-out, beat-up wooden table you've been eyeing for months.
Sure, you could always brush on a coat of paint without the hassle of sanding (more on that in a minute) or even consider whitewashing the table, but sometimes a room needs the warmth of natural wood, and refinishing with the stain of your choice is the way to get it.
Read on for the short list of helpful tools you'll need, a step-by-step breakdown of how to to refinish a wooden table, and answers to common questions like whether you can paint over varnished wood (yep) or refinish without sanding (also yep).
Once you see how easy refinishing wood tables can be, you'll be tempted to try your hand at refinishing other pieces in your home that have been waiting for facelifts.
Tools You’ll Need
- Brush for applying the stain
- Stain in your desired color
- Sandpaper in 100, 150, and 220 grit
- Tack cloth
- Rubber gloves
How To Refinish a Wood Table
- Move the table to a ventilated area, like a covered porch or garage, where you can work without worrying about the mess. Sand the table, beginning with the coarsest-grit sandpaper (100 grit) and sanding in the direction of the wood grain. Next, sand the table with the 150-grit paper, and finish by sanding with the 220-grit paper.
- Wipe the surface of the entire table using the tack cloth. Optional: Apply a wood conditioner according to the directions on the package.
- Brush the stain liberally onto the table, following the natural direction of the grain. Let the stain soak into the wood for just a few minutes before wiping it off with a clean towel. Let the table dry according to the directions on the stain’s packaging.
- Reapply the stain to reach the desired depth of color.
- Optional: For an extra-smooth finish, sand your newly stained table using fine 420-grit paper and using a hand sander.
- Apply polyurethane according to package directions, applying up to four coats for durability. Let the table dry for at least 24 hours before using.
How much does refinishing a table cost?
If you happen to have the tools you need (see above) already on hand, then the cost of refinishing a wood table or other piece of wooden furniture is your time. If you don’t have these items, expect to spend around $60 at your local hardware store gathering supplies.
Can you paint over varnished wood without sanding?
Yes. Use a product called TSP, available at your local hardware store. Apply the product, rinse, and let it dry completely. Then prime your furniture and paint as desired. Don’t skip priming, or the grain from the wood may show through.
Can you refinish furniture without sanding?
As long as you aren’t staining it, yes. Certain types of paint will adhere to painted or stained furniture without sanding. Check out milk paint (like Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint), Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, or a mineral paint. Or use a good-quality primer that’s labeled for no sanding.
You can also try a liquid deglosser (sometimes called liquid sandpaper), which, when applied to the surface of the wood, will remove the paint/finish. Be warned that it does smell, and is best done outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
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